Be Frank With Me: A Novel (Hardcover)
February 2016 Indie Next List
“When reclusive novelist Mimi Banning loses her fortune and must quickly write a second novel, her publisher sends a young publicist to oversee the efforts and make sure their huge investment is secure. Alice Whitley arrives and is put to work as a caregiver to Mimi's eccentric nine-year-old son, Frank. Frank is a diamond in the rough, and as Alice gets to know him and the mysterious characters in his life, she becomes all-consumed with discovering his paternity. Be Frank With Me is captivating, irresistible, moving, heartbreaking, and utterly unputdownable.”
— Bess Bleyaert, McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, MI
AN AMERICAN BOOKSELLERS ASSOCIATION ADULT DEBUT HONOR BOOK
WINNER OF THE AUDIE AWARD FOR BEST FEMALE NARRATOR
LOS ANGELES TIMES BESTSELLER
A sparkling talent makes her fiction debut with this infectious novel that combines the charming pluck of Eloise, the poignant psychological quirks of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and the page-turning spirit of Where’d You Go, Bernadette.
Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years. But after falling prey to a Bernie Madoff-style ponzi scheme, she’s flat broke. Now Mimi must write a new book for the first time in decades, and to ensure the timely delivery of her manuscript, her New York publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. The prickly Mimi reluctantly complies—with a few stipulations: No Ivy-Leaguers or English majors. Must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane.
When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she’s put to work right away—as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noel Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders.
As she slowly gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who Frank’s father is, how his gorgeous “piano teacher and itinerant male role model” Xander fits into the Banning family equation—and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.
Full of heart and countless “only-in-Hollywood” moments, Be Frank with Me is a captivating and unconventional story of an unusual mother and son, and the intrepid young woman who finds herself irresistibly pulled into their unforgettable world.
“Readers will find themselves captivated.”
“Delightful. You will laugh out loud.”
“Johnson’s magnificently poignant, funny, and wholly original debut goes beyond page-turner status. Readers will race to the next sentence. And the next. Her charming, flawed, quietly courageous characters, each wonderfully different, demand a second reading while we impatiently await the author’s second work.”
“A lot of fun to be had along the way. Sit back…and enjoy the show.”
“Julia Claiborne Johnson ably conjures a quirky cast and a privileged California world. BE FRANK WITH ME is about being an outsider and the ways in which differences help others see the world in a new way. Like Frank, this offbeat story has a big heart.”
“Johnson’s spare, wry, Salingeresque style evokes those great oddball novels of the past and provides a charming take on the parent-of-challenged-child theme.”
“Frank Banning may be the most endearing scene-stealer you’ll ever meet in the pages of a book...Johnson proves it’s possible to write a comic novel that, at times, is heartbreaking.”
“This book has stayed with me since I turned the last page. Frank is one of the most memorable children in contemporary fiction.”
“Simply delightful...A warm and friendly book, with characters you want to get to know.”
“Hilarious, poignant and full of unexpected gems, BE FRANK WITH ME illuminates the strange ways literature can parallel life, and introduces readers to one of the most charming, lovable and maddening children in fiction.”
“Witty dialogue, irresistible characters, and a touch of mystery make this sweet debut about a quirky Hollywood family an enjoyable page-turner.”
“The curious incident of where’d you go, Salinger.”
“Julia Claiborne Johnson has struck gold in creating Frank Banning -- a one-of-a-kind exasperating, witty and endearing nine-year-old genius who functions as the beating heart of this marvelous book.”
“Witty, but never cutesy. Deeply felt, but never sentimental. Peopled with deeply flawed, fully realized characters I cared about... I loved every minute I spent in Julia Claiborne Johnson’s glass house with her cast of dedicated stone-throwers. This one is special---don’t miss it.”
“There’s so much to love about this novel: the hilarious one-liners, the unforgettable characters, the unexpected moments of tenderness and all the funny, sad, poignant twists and turns this story takes. I lost myself in these pages and you will too.”
“Julia Claiborne Johnson has written an effervescent gem of a novel, expertly balancing on a literary tightrope between lighthearted and heartbreaking. BE FRANK WITH ME is peopled by characters at once utterly unique, and entirely authentic. I may re-read this book just to spend more time with Frank.”
Beautifully written, brimming with insight, mystery, and benevolent wit, Julia Johnson had me gripped from the first chapter to the final page of BE FRANK WITH ME.”
“BE FRANK WITH ME is complex, nuanced, detailed and profound. In other words, funny, in the best, most resonant way. Read it with both eyes because it will delight both the thinky and the feely parts of your brain.”
“What a charmer this book is! From the very first page, I fell hard for Frank, an adorable oddball with an amazing brain, a wardrobe to die for, and a lonely fragility that pierced my heart again and again.”